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From The Vault Of Art Shay: Rev. Andrew Greeley, Catholic Maverick, Dies At 85

By Art Shay in News on Jun 13, 2013 4:00PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. This week, Art memorializes the live of Rev. Andrew Greeley, who died last month.)

A Catholic giant of our time and place, Rev. Andrew Greeley, has fallen.

As Pope Urban remarked when Cardinal Richelieu died in 1642—a Catholic giant of his time whom Greeley had studied and many scholars thought he resembled—"If there is a God, Richelieu will have much to answer for. If there is not, he lived a successful life."

Like Richelieu, Greeley was a book man whose words and critiques of the arts echoed (and as a sociologist of repute, resounded) through the Church like a controlled tornado of intellect and logic. Richelieu founded the Acadamie Francaise, which continues to promote French literature. Greeley worked in the field of statistical analysis of Catholic thought and achievement and he produced more than 100 books, about half of them bodice-rippers that built a huge audience that, in the case of one sexy book on a cardinal, The Cardinal Sins, brought Greeley millions of dollars, an apartment at the John Hancock center and a chance to endow a literary chair at a university that refused to give him tenure.

The Washington Post's admiring E.J. Dionne, Jr., wrote, "You wanted Father Andrew Greeley as your friend, not your enemy. You got the sense that he was born with his fists up and his loyalties fully formed . He was ready to do battle at the first signs of disrespect toward those he cared about."

And he cared about many. Especially the young. Early on he excoriated their abusers every chance he got. He raised those fists against the dereliction of duty, no matter how high the office of the culprit . In casual conversation he blamed God's "casuistry" on the side of the Irish and said with mock defensiveness, "If you're celibate you have to do something." Unlike Cardinal Richelieu who disdained the fleshpots of Paris saying that his mind could conjure up sexier women than the palace pimps could.

Greeley exorcised his disdain by writing dirty books, helping people and doing good works. He liked to marvel at God's human comedy—ground, air and water—visible from his apartment at the Hancock . Then he would type up a marketable storm.

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.